John Nichols is well known, out in the larger world, as a novelist, the author of such books as The Sterile Cuckoo and The Milagro Beanfield War. In his longtime home of northern New Mexico, Nichols has earned a parallel reputation as a political and environmental activist, an advocate and protector of the Taos valley and the upper Rio Grande. Dancing on the Stones gathers hitherto uncollected essays and speeches that reflect both sides of his 40-year career. He remarks on the business of writing and moviemaking, on the pleasures of trout fishing and long-distance hiking, and especially on the necessity of finding a place to call home and defending it from harm. The essays range from mild provocation and even outrage (one bears the title "The Writer as Revolutionary") to whimsy, as when Nichols proclaims he was lured to the Southwest by clouds. One of the strongest pieces, "What Is a Naturalist, Anyway?" combines seriousness and humor to formulate a suitably broad answer: a naturalist, Nichols writes, "is a person whose curiosity is boundless ... who tries to delight in everything, is in love with the whole of life, and hopes to walk in harmony across this earth." Fans of Nichols's work and newcomers to it alike will find much of pleasure in this personal anthology. --Gregory McNamee
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From Library Journal
This collection of essays represents the "stepping stones" of Nichols's "journey" as an author. Almost all of the essays have been previously published or presented, and most are about the Southwest, especially New Mexico. The collection is divided into sections, each with a brief introduction. Enjoyable to read, the essays provide insights into the political activism of the Sixties, the environmental movement, the beauty of the New Mexico landscape, the development of a writer, and the strength of the individual. Of particular interest is the epilog, which sees the "spirit of the West" as "the same as the spirit of the South, the East, the North, New England, [and] the corn belt " and describes the myths of the West as "way too claustrophobic"--ideas well worth considering. Recommended for public libraries.--Sue Samson, Univ. of Montana Lib., Missoul.-- the corn belt " and describes the myths of the West as "way too claustrophobic"--ideas well worth considering. Recommended for public libraries.
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-Sue Samson, Univ. of Montana Lib., Missoula
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